Thursday, December 27, 2007

Marriage teetering over a cup of joe

Lately, I've been spelunking YouTube for all things Sixties. Some of the commercials are especially amusing.

Advertisers have long preyed on our insecurities in return for our dollars. Apparently, the Achilles' heel of mid-century suburban housewives was their coffee making ability.

And, dude, if fresh perked is the best, why couldn't they find the time to make fresh perked? In spite of our hectic 2000s schedule with two working parents, we still find time to make real coffee.

Planet Earth

One of the items under the tree this year: the complete series of the BBC's Planet Earth, narrated by David Attenborough. As far as nature films go, this is certainly among the best I've ever seen. If you have any appreciation at all for the art, it will blow your mind, and if you have HD DVD or Blu-Ray, you'll definitely want to go with a high def version.

From the box:

"With an unprecedented production budget of $25 million, and from the makers of Blue Planet: Seas of Life, comes the epic story of life on Earth. Five years in production, over 2,000 days in the field, using 40 cameramen filming across 200 locations, shot entirely in high definition, this is the ultimate portrait of our planet. A stunning television experience that captures rare action, impossible locations and intimate moments with our planet's best-loved, wildest and most elusive creatures. From the highest mountains to the deepest rivers, this blockbuster series takes you on an unforgettable journey through the daily struggle for survival in Earth's most extreme habitats. Planet Earth takes you to places you have never seen before, to experience sights and sounds you may never experience anywhere else. "


Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Swing Wing

Clicking my way through oblique YouTube link chains led me to the Swing Wing, a head-banging 60s toy so fun it inspired applause from happy chimpanzees. (And who can argue with that?) Made by Transogram ... A company probably not in business anymore...

Friday, December 21, 2007

Human Tetris

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Sakamoto & Yano

This would be much better (IMHO) without the cuts to techno, but the video quality is quite good, so you take what you can get. Formerly married, Ryuichi Sakamoto and Akiko Yano playing Tong Poo.

This may be the end of the French theme. :)

Les Champs-Elysées (1970)

Mais pourquoi pas?

One reader asks what's up with all the French stuff?


I guess sometimes one just needs to escape from this nonsense.
And now back to the program...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Accidental Algorithms

Taking a break from the regularly scheduled French visuals, we turn to Brian Hayes' article Accidental Algorithms at American Scientist:

"What prompts me to write on this theme is a new and wholly unexpected family of algorithms that provide efficient methods for several problems that previously had only brute-force solutions. The algorithms were invented by Leslie G. Valiant of Harvard University, with extensive further contributions by Jin-Yi Cai of the University of Wisconsin. Valiant named the methods 'holographic algorithms,' but he also refers to them as 'accidental algorithms,' emphasizing their capricious, rabbit-from-the-hat quality; they seem to pluck answers from a tangle of unlikely coincidences and cancellations. I am reminded of the famous Sidney Harris cartoon in which a long series of equations on a blackboard hinges on the notation 'Then a miracle occurs.'"


Nouvelle Vague

Nouvelle Vague's reinvention of Love Will Tear Us Apart.

Artist: Nouvelle Vague
Song: Love Will Tear Us Apart
Disc: Nouvelle Vague
Year: 2006

Monday, December 17, 2007


Cinematic impressionism at its finest...

"In Krzysztof Kieslowski's 'Blue,' the rehabilitation of a human spirit after painful tragedy is given stunning, aesthetic dimension. A story about a woman (Juliette Binoche) who loses her family in a car crash, this Polish-French production is also a spectral array of blues -- cold, heart-chilling and beautiful."

-- Desson Howe (WaPo)


At this point, a performance by Daniel Auteuil alone is enough to get a film into my Netflix queue. This is Caché.

"The opening shot of Michael Haneke's 'Caché' shows the facade of a townhouse on a side street in Paris. As the credits roll, ordinary events take place on the street. Then we discover that this footage is a video, and that it is being watched by Anne and Georges Laurent (Juliette Binoche and Daniel Auteuil). It is their house. They have absolutely no idea who took the video, or why it was sent to them.

So opens a perplexing and disturbing film of great effect, showing how comfortable lives are disrupted by the simple fact that someone is watching."

-- Roger Ebert

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Etre et Avoir

When your faith in humanity hits a low, Être et Avoir is the sort of film that can restore it. Following is a YouTube with clips from the film set to Pep's Liberta.

"This heart-wrenching documentary about a French village schoolteacher at work offers the comedy and pathos of great drama and the visual magnificence of painting." -- Charles Taylor (Salon)

Saturday, December 15, 2007


"It is so hard to make a nimble, charming comedy. So hard to get the tone right and find actors who embody charm instead of impersonating it. It takes so much confidence to dance on the tightrope of whimsy. "Amelie" takes those chances, and gets away with them." - Roger Ebert

L'Homme du Train

"Two men meet late in life. One is a retired literature teacher. The other is a bank robber. Both are approaching a rendezvous with destiny. By chance, they spend some time together. Each begins to wish he could have lived the other's life.

From this simple premise, Patrice Leconte has made one of his most elegant films. It proceeds as if completely by accident and yet foreordained, and the two men--who come from such different worlds--get along well because both have the instinctive reticence and tact of born gentlemen."

- Roger Ebert

Friday, December 14, 2007

Les triplettes de Belleville

A great animated film, The Triplets of Belleville somehow managed to simultaneously channel the musical ghost of Django Reinhardt and, to some extent, the visual ghost of George Grosz, at least for me in the degree to which the images were grotesques. Maybe if George Grosz had collaborated on the Aristocats, the animation would have had the same look.

Mathieu Chedid's equally strange video for the theme song...

14th arrondissement

For the foreseeable future, most of my free mental energy will be going into learning the ropes of a new job, so how about some more random video? And now for something completely different...

First theme, French films... or at least, films that have some sort of French influence behind them. Not sure how long it will last on YouTube, but what follows is a short from the film Paris Je T'aime by Alexander Payne (Election, About Schmidt, Sideways...). I think it's a great short.

Note: If it's gone, you can also catch it on Netflix under "Watch Now" by forwarding to 1:43 in the film. I also enjoyed the Coen Bros. short with Steve Buscemi.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

2007 Brit TV Ad Awards

Once again, we went to see the British Television Advertising Awards (link), so what comes next are a few comments regarding my faves.

None made me laugh harder than this IRN-BRU commercial. It's probably funny by itself, but if you've seen the animated version of Raymond Briggs' The Snowman, it may be infinitely funnier.

The Leith Agency. Directed by Robin Shaw.

And then PG's Al and Monkey...

By Mother. Directed by Danny Kleinman.

In response to the Sony Bravia bouncing balls comes this excellent Tango parody with bouncing fruit.

By Clemmow, Hornby Inge. Directed by Jim Gilchrist.

The car seems awfully human in Toyota's Human Touch ad.

By Hakuhodo G1 Inc. Directed by Ne-0.

Other noteworthy ads include Airwaves Alien portraying an alien horrified with human existence, the 118 118 choir spoofing Honda's choir, MTV's Idiots includes Christmas drunks barely smart enough to take a cab home, and the Pot noodle miners.

Monday, December 03, 2007


Artist: Elliott Smith
Song: Angeles (mp3)

Predicting the Predictors

Although I'm not a financial engineer, the complexity of the financial models used on Wallstreet have made me nervous for some time. Why? When the models become so complex that their mechanics are no longer well understood, how does one know whether one is predicting real market forces or if one is merely predicting the predictors? Seems to have the potential for some nasty, bubblicious feedback loops. I'm not sure if that's been the case, but it seems others who know better are nervous as well.

Krugman: "This time, market players seem truly horrified — because they’ve suddenly realized that they don’t understand the complex financial system they created."


Sunday, December 02, 2007

What gets pwned?

In his excellent blog Good Math, Bad Math, Mark Chu-Carroll asks and answers the question IP: Real or Bogus?

"I've got some good friends who believe whole-heartedly that the entire idea of "intellectual property" is nonsense, and that copyrights (much less patents) should not exist at all. I can't agree with that, not on any level. The short version of my disagreement is that the most basic idea of property is that when I produce value, the value produced is mine. If I take wood, and I do the work of turning it into a chair, it's my chair, and my work created a valuable artifact. That artifact, the product of my work, is mine, and I can use it or sell it as I desire. I don't think that the fact that a work in intangible changes the essential nature of that: if I write a book, then my work has created something of value, and it's up to me to decide whether to keep it, or sell it, or give it away."

By and large, I'm in agreement with him. Reading the post, left me recalling Chapter 5 of Locke's 2nd Treatise of Government which, arguably, forms the intellectual basis for property as we conceive it. Key to Locke's conception of property is the labor component:

"Though the earth, and all inferior creatures, be common to all men, yet every man has a property in his own person: this no body has any right to but himself. The labour of his body, and the work of his hands, we may say, are properly his. Whatsoever then he removes out of the state that nature hath provided, and left it in, he hath mixed his labour with, and joined to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his property. It being by him removed from the common state nature hath placed it in, it hath by this labour something annexed to it, that excludes the common right of other men: for this labour being the unquestionable property of the labourer, no man but he can have a right to what that is once joined to, at least where there is enough, and as good, left in common for others."

It may be a worthwhile read, if you're interested in going back to "the source" so to speak.


The Bird And The Bee

Some time between the discovery of fire and now I was a serious music junkie. Now, lacking any aspirations to coolness in this arena, I still find myself compelled to note that which I find intriguing, interesting and/or excellent. This evening, for the first time, I heard The Races by The Bird And The Bee. They're all right, in the best possible way. Here's an excellent video for an earlier tune, Again & Again. Hints of Ivy, Nouvelle Vague, Throwing Muses and Letters to Cleo.

Artist: The Bird And The Bee
Song: Again & Again (mp3)
Year: 2006

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence

The first serious snowfall of the season leaves the landscape looking like Christmas.

More from Sakamoto...

Following is the theme from the 1983 film Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence. Although I haven't seen it, I know it isn't a holiday film, but, still, I do know there's something mesmerizing about the theme song, which somehow suitably accompanies the gently falling snow and city glow outside my windows.

Artist: Ryuichi Sakamoto
Song: Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence (mp3)
Disc: Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence
Year: 1994

The Princess Bride

A great film is 20 years old. Here's the original review of The Princess Bride by the sorely missed team of Siskel & Ebert. Thankfully, Roger Ebert continues to offer his wonderful reviews.

The Lorax

"But the next week
he knocked on my new office door.
He snapped, I'm the Lorax who speaks for the trees
which you seem to be chopping as fast as you please.
But I'm also in charge of the Brown Bar-ba-loots
who played in the shade in their Bar-ba-loot suits
and happily lived, eating Truffula Fruits.
NOW...thanks to your hacking my trees to the ground,
there's not enough Truffula Fruit to go 'round.
And my poor Bar-ba-loots are all getting the crummies
because they have gas, and no food, in their tummies!

They loved living here. But I can't let them stay.
They'll have to find food. And I hope that they may.
Good luck, boys, he cried. And he sent them away."
The Lorax
-- Dr. Suess